Fashion, Desire and Anxiety

Details: Fashion Desire and Anxiety:Image and Morality in the 20th Century by Rebecca Arnold was published by Rutgers University Press in 2001. It's a thoroughly researched, academic look at the push and pull between clothing, fashion photography and moral constructs. My conclusion is that it's impossible to determine if society influences fashion and fashion photography or vise versa, but clothing as a clear power to communicate the wearer's view of society.

Pros: I appreciated Arnold's depiction of the medium of clothing as a symbol for both women's advancement and regression in the 20th century. She broke the book into topics of power, status and display; violence and provocation; the eroticized body; and gender and subversion.Alexander McQueen's extreme styles were frequent examples of modern fashion's obsession with decadence, decay and violence.

Arnold's examples were current and well-chosen. She had photographs for every major point.

I will never look at a fashion editorial the same way. If you tell me I'm over evaluating a blurred edge, I'll just make you read the book.

Cons: Because it's an academic text, it's rather dry. I found myself falling asleep a few times (though that may have been because I was reading in a warm car on my lunch break). The information is fascinating, but there's so much my brain went numb at points.

I wish the publisher had sprung for colored pictures. It's hard to get the full impact of the runway look or photograph in greyscale.

Favorite Tidbits: This isn't really the sort of book where I can pull out a few interesting facts, but I may write some mini essays on some of the ideas in the future.


Anonymous said…
Sounds fascinating...haven't seen that title before...will try and hunt it donw...
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